Pray for Marriage

Today, April 28, our U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument concerning the question of whether state laws that define marriage as between one man and one woman are constitutional. It seems, as expected, that Court-watchers believe that the swing vote will once again fall to Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Justice Ginsburg had previously shown her hand in an interview earlier this year, essentially expressing a belief that America is “ready” for same-sex marriage. And Justices Sotomayor and Kagan appear in favor of it as well.

As you go about your day, and in the two months or so that it will take for the Court to issue its decision on this highly important case, please pray for the Justices, and Justice.

Same-sex marriage does considerable injustice: to the persons who enter into such relationships, to the people who “support” and “affirm” them, to surrounding families and relatives who experience its consequences, to the social fabric of our communities, and particularly to children who will suffer if such “rights” are recognized.

However, even if the Supreme Court determines that there are no compelling reasons for preserving the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, it does not mean that the battle is over, or that Truth has been defeated. The Supreme Court does not possess the authority to redefine marriage. That it would do so will have grave implications for the Rule of Law.

In Evangelium Vitae, St. Pope John Paul II cites to Aquinas on the question of the natural law and its relationship to the civil law: “human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence”. And again: “Every law made by man can be called a law insofar as it derives from the natural law. But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law, then it is not really a law but rather a corruption of the law“. (para. 72).

As with abortion, civil law will again oppose natural law, leading to further corruption. We should be prepared for this, as we will remain subject to Caesar going forward.

Also recall that while this “culture war” has certainly spun into overdrive in the past decade, the efforts to redefine marriage are, in fact, centuries old. Nearly five hundred years ago, an English sovereign known as Henry VIII wished to establish a Tudor Dynasty that would outlive his reign, and to secure it he knew that he needed a male heir. Yet, his lawful wife, a princess of Spain, did not conceive and carry a male heir to term.

Thus, Henry decided that he would divorce his Queen and marry Anne Boleyn. To do this, the King tore Christendom asunder. The Pope, despite the efforts of Cardinal Wolsey, refused to grant an annulment. So Henry declared himself head of the Church of England, confiscated the Church’s property in his realm (making himself the richest King in the history of England, and perhaps all of Europe), and required every English subject to sign an oath affirming his headship of the Church in England and the queenship of Anne Boleyn.

14765606292_c54b6081d2_oScores of (Catholic) bishops, and hundreds, if not thousands of priests, all signed the oath and assented to the break with Rome. Their assent, however, was certainly under duress, since refusal to take the oath meant permanent residency in the Tower of London, the stripping of all titles, privileges and property, and ultimately, execution. They were cowards, but they kept their heads.

Only a handful of Catholic martyrs, including Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, refused to assent to Henry’s break with Rome, and for their steadfast loyalty they earned a swift death.

Also recall that for nearly a century, our laws in this country have favored the option of “no-fault” divorce, which permits civil dissolution of marriage absent cause. Husband and wife have been citing “irreconcilable differences” for some time now, which has harshly abused God’s intention for marriage. We’ve grown rather ambivalent about the bonds that God has joined together, that no man should put asunder.

And finally, we’ve also observed cultural shifts within the same last century that have adopted favorable attitudes regarding the use of artificial contraception and abortion. Many of our own Catholic brothers and sisters, and a much wider array of Protestant Christians and secular folks, have in their own marriages willingly traded the procreative aspect of marriage, and the call from God to remain open to the gift of children, in exchange for sex as recreational activity.

This too, has compounded our divorce rates, reduced the numbers of individuals who consider sexual activity to be something that belongs within marriage, and led to the further objectification of women.

In all, even without a new pronouncement from the Supreme Court, marriage “isn’t what it used to be”, or rather, for much of the world it is not what God intends. Inasmuch as we Catholics would see God’s laws reflected in our civil codes, we cannot be especially surprised at the so-called (civil) institution of marriage devolving to the point that it is so dissolute that it is virtually unrecognizable.

What remains to be gained from civil marriage is a package of legal entitlements, to which gay couples believe they should also be permitted to access, and for many, it is hard to disagree.

We shouldn’t blame them. What occurred prior to same-sex marriage to undermine the institution of marriage may well have had diabolical origins, but it was hardly the suggestion that two people of the same sex should be able to “marry” — however diabolical such a suggestion may be — that brought us to this point.

Now, more than ever, faithful Catholics are presented an opportunity to truly live their faith, stick out their own necks, and witness to the reality that marriage (as God intends) is a lifelong sacramental union of one man and woman, consisting of unitive and procreative aspects.

Catholics everywhere must joyfully proclaim the reality that strong marriages are established by God not just for husband and wife and their children, but as the foundational building block of society, the strength of which brings us closer to establishing the Kingdom and promoting the dignity of every person. We must articulate the Truth of marriage with the example of our living, and along the way we will show the world what it has abandoned.

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Limoncello: It is Finished!

The “Limoncello Project” began in February with the gift of some locally-grown lemons. I posted a mid-point update in March, and am now happy to report that the entire batch has been bottled and is resting comfortably under refrigeration.

"Going Green" -- Recycling old sparkling water and vodka bottles for limoncello

“Going Green” — Recycling old sparkling water and vodka bottles for limoncello

This was a first attempt, and I used a fairly basic procedure: I removed the zest of more than 6 dozen fresh lemons, marinated the zest in about 10 liters of cheap (but good quality, made in Austria, potato-based from Trader Joe’s) vodka for a month, added a simple syrup consisting of water and granulated sugar to the lemon vodka, and let it rest at room temperature for another 6 weeks. Finally, today I transferred the contents of my five-gallon carboy into bottles and stored them in the refrigerator in the brewhouse.

Sometimes I have a tendency to “overdo” the size of my projects, especially the first run. When I first attempted salami, I made about four times as much as I should have, expecting it would be great (it wasn’t; almost all of it had to be thrown away). I’ve done forty or fifty pounds of guinciale at once, with success. I put in my pilot vineyard with 48 plants, expecting that (green thumb I am not) some would take off and others would die, and I might end up with half that survive and thrive (I was right).

IMG_1620Point is, I have a high degree of fallibility in assessing my capabilities and determining how much of a “first bite” I want to take. With the limoncello, I feel like I was aiming for the brass ring, since the first batch ended up at over five gallons, which would have been a lot of hooch to pour out if something went wrong.

Thankfully, nothing went wrong. It’s great. All of the oils and color from the peel were well extracted, there isn’t a trace of bitterness or pithy flavor (nor any off flavors or aromas), the limoncello hits you instantly on the nose with a really pungent and attractive lemony citrus aroma, it has a great smooth mouthfeel and it warms your palate with a gloss of unctuous lemon oil going down. It is the way a digestif should be.

Most importantly, and the thing I like most about my limoncello is that it is completely natural. It tastes, looks and smells like authentic lemons, and not artificial variants that have been processed to the point that it’s more like lemon Pledge that limoncello.

26099Commercial limoncellos can be highly processed and have added colorings. The one I am most familiar with is Caravella, which is sometimes available at Costco and normally sells for about $20 a bottle. It states that it is produced in Italy, from Sorrento, but it does not compare with my version.

I’ve enjoyed homemade versions, house recipes at high-end restaurants in the U.S. and trattorias in Italy. I’ve sampled boutique lines, both in Italy and domestically. Even without a side-by-side tasting, I am confident that my version easily stands up to what I have tried elsewhere.

This was a very simple project, much easier than brewing or curing meat. Zesting lemons makes the house smell wonderful, whereas grinding pork with lots of garlic does not. And you will experience a flush of pride when you present your homemade limoncello to your guests following a feast at your table!

[N.B.: Now I need to figure out how to get all this zest out of the narrow neck of my carboy!]

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Dear ACLU: Go pound sand!

The “American Civil Liberties Union” holds itself out as an organization that “For almost 100 years….. has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

The First Amendment to our U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment is First for a reason: the Founders believed that the protections granted by this Amendment were fundamental, primary, and most capable of being abridged. The fact that a majority of Americans no longer care about this right as much as “security”, “safety” or “privacy” does not mean that the First Amendment goes away. In fact, it continues to protect all Americans, and thank God for that.

But rather than do what it says it was founded to do (to wit, preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution…), the ACLU is now suing the federal government to obtain documents regarding the American Catholic Bishop’s refusal to provide contraceptive and abortion services to refugee immigrants who cross the border in to this country.

You scorekeepers will note that while religious liberty is the first specifically enumerated right that was explicitly established by the Bill of Rights, in contrast abortion and contraception are not to be found anywhere in said document. Rather, the notion of these things being “rights” is a legal fiction derived from a manufactured “privacy” right under the 14th Amendment, which prevents the state from interfering with “choice”.

The fact that the ACLU would prioritize a manufactured “right” in favor of an explicitly enumerated one is more proof that we live in the Age of Euphemism.

An Alterative Paradox! 

“But I thought science means factual,” little Sally Schoolgirl fussed. “It says in this article that scientists recently discovered an object in the Universe that is so large, it should not exist according to the Big Bang theory.” 

Bobby Obvious rolled his eyes. “Big Bang theory. Duh.” 

She winced. “You mean the notion that billions of years ago the Universe just randomly, inexplicably, and in the total absence of creative intellect, exploded into existence without any chain of causality isn’t a provable fact?? It could actually be untrue?”

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Meanwhile, Catholic parents everywhere, giving thanks for the glorious and Mysterious majesty of Creation, give additional thanks to God for the revelation that the largest known void is not their children’s brains. {h/t Fr. A}

Francis Cardinal George — perhaps the only true one-time “American Papabile” — R.I.P.

The Statement from the Archdiocese of Chicago:

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I had the privilege and honor of being received into the Church along with my wife by Cardinal George at the Easter Vigil in 2000. He generously made time to visit our RCIA group when we were both candidates and later, as sponsors, and I was able to meet him and chat with him briefly several times. I was impressed by his brilliance, and humility. This is sad news.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 12.37.14 PMA lot of good Chicago Catholics noticed his appearance on the Loggia of St. Peter’s after the election of Benedict XVI in 2005. His expression was described as pensive or anxious, and reporters later asked him what it was that he was feeling or thinking in the moment that he was caught on camera.

My recollection is that Cardinal George answered that looking out onto the square, he reflected how the various man-made institutions had come and faded into mere memory over the life of the Church — the Roman Empire, the various European kingdoms, and all the other great powers that at one point or another seemed virtually indestructible. “Where are they now?”, he asked. Only the Church survived when other forces appeared so much more unstoppable.

This answer never put an end to speculation that he had received some votes in the conclave, enough to pray for Benedict to have a long pontificate. By any stretch, it would have been amazing for an American cardinal to receive any votes, much less a block of them. If true, by the time of the 2013 conclave he most likely was more serene, aware that his cancer and age would save him from such a burden. But a number of Chicago Catholics, including myself, would not have been dismayed at all, but rather delighted (and confident in the Holy Spirit’s guidance) with a Pope George.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI turns 88 today, and celebrates properly!

This is my new favorite photograph in all of creation, posted on Zenit.org’s Facebook feed:

I am happy to see His Holiness looking well and happy, surrounded by fellow countrymen and accompanied by his brother, Georg. It would be a great privilege to share such a moment in Benedict’s presence. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for him today, and ask God to grant him a happy and healthy 88th year!

My wife’s the Best…..

For the past few months, Mrs. Q has been traveling to Palo Alto one weekend a month with a good friend to train to become a catechist for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This month her friend couldn’t go, so we packed up the kids in the car and brought them down, hitting a few sites that we’ve been meaning to visit:

The Shrine of St. Francis in San Francisco:  Then we headed over to Chinatown for lunch. The seafood is always FRESH:  We have one son who already thinks he might have a vocation to the priesthood, and a wonderful seminarian friend who showed us around St. Patrick’s in Menlo Park (picture below is in the main chapel): Then, we got back to the hotel, and Mrs. Q suggested she take the kids up to bed and that I should….. 

Having the life, huh?